Monday, January 24, 2005

Better web searches

Javed Mostafa at Scientific American writes about the future of web search.

After a good introduction on the basics of web search, he talks about clustering, personalized search, desktop search, search from mobile devices, location-based search, and advances in image search. A good read.

Some excerpts on personalized search:
    If search engines could take the broader task context of a person's query into account -- that is, a user's recent search subjects, personal behavior, work topics, and so forth -- their utility would be greatly augmented.

    Good sources of information on personal interests are the records of a user's Web browsing behavior and other interactions with common applications in their systems. As a person opens, reads, plays, views, prints or shares documents, engines could track his or her activities and employ them to guide searches of particular subjects.
By looking at what you seem to be trying to do, the search engine can modify the relevance rank to help bubble up articles that you might otherwise miss. From your actions, the search engine learns what you want and helps you find it.

It's interesting that Javed seems pretty negative toward personalization approaches that require explicitly stating your interests (e.g. Google Personalized Search). He argues that "most people are unlikely to put up with the bother of entering personal data." Exactly right. Personalization is supposed to make my life easier, remember? Don't make me do work, especially if you don't have to.

[via Gary Price]

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